Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Covid-19 pandemic has shown us just how devastating a global, cross-border threat can be. Climate change and biodiversity loss are no different – in fact, they pose an even greater existential threat, to the extent that we have to put ourselves on what might be called a war-like footing.
Having myself had the opportunity of consulting many of you over these past eighteen months, I know you all carry a heavy burden on your shoulders and you do not need me to tell you that the eyes – and hopes – of the world are upon you to act with all despatch, and decisively – because time has run out.
The recent I.P.C.C. report gave us a clear diagnosis of the scale of the problem. We know what we must do. With a growing global population creating ever-increasing demand on the planet’s finite resources, we have to reduce emissions urgently and take action to tackle the carbon already in the atmosphere, including from coal-fired power stations. Putting a value on carbon, thus making carbon capture solutions more economical, is therefore absolutely critical. Similarly, after billions of years of evolution, Nature is our best teacher – in this regard, restoring Natural Capital, accelerating Nature-based solutions and leveraging the circular bioeconomy will be vital to our efforts.
As we tackle this crisis, our efforts cannot be a series of independent initiatives running in parallel. The scale and scope of the threat we face call for a global, systems-level solution, based on radically transforming our current fossil fuel-based economy to one that is genuinely renewable and sustainable. So, Ladies and Gentlemen, my plea today is for countries to come together to create the environment that enables every sector of industry to take the action required. We know this will take trillions, not billions, of dollars. We also know that countries, many of whom are burdened by growing levels of debt, simply cannot afford to “go green.” Here, we need a vast military-style campaign to marshal the strength of the global private sector. With trillions at its disposal – far beyond global G.D.P. and, with the greatest respect, beyond even the governments of the world’s leaders – it offers the only real prospect of achieving fundamental economic transition.
So, how do we do it?
First: how do we get the private sector all pulling in the same direction? After nearly two years now of consultation, C.E.O.s have told me that we need to bring together global industries to map out, in very practical terms, what it will take to make the transition. We know from the pandemic that the private sector can speed up timelines dramatically when everyone agrees on the urgency and the direction. So each sector needs a clear strategy to speed up the process of getting innovations to market.
Second, who pays, and how? We need to align private investment behind these industry strategies to help finance the transition efforts, which means building the confidence of investors so that the financial risk is reduced. Crucially, investment is needed to help transition from coal to clean energy. If we can develop a pipeline of many more sustainable and ‘bankable’ projects, at a sufficient scale, it will attract greater investment.
Third, which switches do we flick to enable these objectives? More than three hundred of the world’s leading C.E.O.s and institutional investors have told me that, alongside the promises countries have made – their Nationally Determined Contributions – they need clear market signals, agreed globally, so that they have the confidence to invest, without the goalposts suddenly moving.
This is the framework I have offered in the Terra Carta roadmap, created by my Sustainable Markets Initiative, with nearly one hundred specific actions for acceleration. Together, we are working to drive trillions of dollars in support of transition across ten of the most emitting and polluting industries. They include energy, agriculture, transportation, health systems and fashion. The reality of today’s global supply chains means that industry transition will affect every country and every producer in the world. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the private sector is ready to play its part and to work with governments to find a way forward.
Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, many of your countries I know are already feeling the devastating impact of climate change, through ever-increasing droughts, mudslides, floods, hurricanes, cyclones and wildfires, as we’ve just seen on that terrifying film. Any leader who has had to confront such life-threatening challenges knows that the cost of inaction is far greater than the cost of prevention. So, I can only urge you, as the world’s decision-makers, to find practical ways of overcoming differences so we can all get down to work, together, to rescue this precious planet and save the threatened future of our young people.
Thank you, Ladies and Gentlemen.